The Invention Of Air

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Back when we were deciding to make the investment in outside.in, I had a chat with founder Steven Johnson. He had a book he wanted to write and wanted to run the company and write the book at the same time. That didn’t make sense to me. I asked him if he’d hold off on writing the book for one year, allow the company enough time to find a CEO, at which time he could become chairman and go back to writing books.

That plan worked out well, Steven hired Mark Josephson to be CEO this spring, and got busy writing the book he had in his head the year before. That book is now done and is called The Invention Of Air.

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon now and will ship on December 26th. Steven was nice enough to give me a signed copy to read in advance of commercial release and I read half of it last night on the plane ride to Paris. I wanted to sleep, but couldn’t put it down.

The book is about Joseph Priestly, an amazing man who discovered oxygen while at the same time being a full-time clergyman and political activist and advisor and collaborator with Ben Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Like all of Steven’s books, this is about science, history, and how all this stuff is inexorably linked.

Like I do with most of the books I read, I’ll quote from this book here while I read it. I’ll leave you with this nugget of truth:

When something big happens in culture – when a man in Leeds goes on a streak of pioneering natural philosophy; when several nations clustered together in a small subsection of the planet simultaneously reinvent science and government – that event is rarely the exclusive result of a single layer: one man’s genius, say, or the rise of a new economic class. Epic breaktroughs happen when the layers align: when energy flows and settlement patterns and scientific paradigms and individual human lives come into some kind of mututally reinforcing synchrony that helps the new ideas both emerge and circulate through the wider society.

I think we may be in that kind of moment right now.